Fancy Coffee Friday: Limber Up

20-jan-2017I have an excuse for not watching the inauguration of the 45th President of the USA: I was getting my hair done.

Also, Facebook and Twitter have been utterly depressing as of late with the avalanche of bad tidings. I fell asleep last night with my stomach in knots because Marmalade Mussolini* was going to step onto the diaz today and I fear for what is coming. Curiously enough, I also had a meeting with my financial advisor this morning and after going over a few things, I asked what his thoughts were about the outlook financially with “today’s impending events”.

My spirits were buoyed only slightly, which he said that he anticipates that these first two years will be okay financially. However, he thinks that a lot of the tax issues will result in a major deficit, Congress will begin to rein things in back to where they should be, and we’ll be worse off. He said that things will be much worse for school age children and young adults.

We spoke of racial tensions, privilege – yes, THAT privilege: “White Privilege”. And how, for some reason, there are a lot of Usonians who have the impression that you succeed in life on merit alone. Sorry folks, merit only gets you so far. Remember the famous quote, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know“? That’s how the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

For better or for worse, that’s a significant lesson to learn; my gut feeling is that Orange Foolius* didn’t become successful because he’s a nice person. I’m a nice person, but the opportunities that have come my way are because I know people and meet people. They get to know me, see my work or talents, and from there, the opportunities arise. Afterall, I’m only walking around with an Associate of Science degree – so it’s not like I can just apply for any job waving a sheet of paper.

No, I gotta hustle. I gotta crawl out from under my rock, press-the-flesh (you know… shaking hands… not, other things), and get out my no-bullshit, shoot-from-the-hip personality to the masses.

Fortunately for all of you, I don’t go around making shit up about what I know and what I don’t know, otherwise I’d have been put in charge of the nation’s nuclear arsenal like Rick Perry. Maybe not… there had to be some significant ass-kissage to get that offer, and no thank you.

So, whether you voted for Sunkist Stalin* or not, I truly believe we’re all going to need a huge bottle of lube to get through the next four years of ass-reaming. I sincerely hope that won’t be the case, but it hasn’t looked good since November 2016.

We need to make sure to hold our employee accountable.

*Where’d I find all these names? Head on over to Luvvie Ajayi’s post “A Handy Guide to Disrespecting Cheeto Satan From Inauguration and Beyond“.


The Amusing Muse is a model (no shit), writer, blogger, and possessor of a green thumb who can’t help but laugh when her diva cat walks around the house, yowling. Loudly. Also, her dining room is being overtaken by dwarf banana plants in giant pots… she bought special lights just for them.
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Fancy Coffee Friday: Finding Manliness

13-jan-2017

Two Christmases ago I gave my eldest nephew a set of books from the people over at The Art of Manliness. When they arrived, I had flipped through them and thought they looked pretty interesting, so after my nephew opened his gift, I asked to borrow the books when he’d finished reading them. I have had the books in my hot, little hands for some months now, but am only just getting around to reading them. I’m starting with Manvotionals.

As I read selections from historical figures like Marcus Aurelius and Jack London, I was struck at how so much of what these men wrote about seems to be missing from a good portion of the men now. There is an essay, “True Manliness” from “Every-day Religion”, written in 1886 by James Freeman Clarke. I encourage you all to read it in full, but a section that stood out to me were the last two paragraphs:

True manliness is tender and loving; false manliness, cold and hard, cynical and contemptuous. The bravest and most heroic souls are usually the most loving. Garibaldi, Kossuth, Mazzini, the heroes of our times; Luther, who never feared the face of man; Gustavus -Adolphus and William of Orange, are examples of this union of courage and tenderness. Bold as lions in the defense of the right, such men in their homes and their private life have a womanly gentleness. False manliness is unfeeling, with no kindly sympathies, rude and rough and overbearing. True manliness is temperate; it is moderate, it exercises self-control, it is capable of self-denial and renunciation. False manliness is self-willed and self-indulgent…….

True manliness differs also from the false in its attitude to woman. Its knightly feeling makes it wish to defend her rights, to maintain her claims, to be her protector and advocate. False manliness wishes to show its superiority by treating women as inferiors. It flatters them, but it does not respect them. It fears their competition on equal levels, and wishes to keep them confined, not within walls, as in the Mohammedan regions, but behind the more subtle barriers of opinion, prejudice, and supposed feminine aptitudes. True manliness holds out the hand to woman, and says, ” Do whatever you are able to do; whatever God meant you to do. Neither you nor I can tell what that is till all artificial barriers are removed, and you have full opportunity to try.” Manly strength respects womanly purity, sympathy, and grace of heart. And this is the real chivalry of the present hour.

As a woman, I shouldn’t need to point out how those words resonated with me. Here in the USA, and around the globe, the belief that women are inferior continues to be taught and perpetuated. Historically, life was harder and men were called away from hearth and home for various reasons, and it was the women who were left behind to manage the home, the businesses, and ventures. Women, for the most part, were looked to as competent partners, not incompetent ninnies.

And then I read this, “The Character of True Courage” from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics:

The same evils which terrify one person are not formidable to another; though there are some of such an irresistible nature, as to shake the firmest minds, and to inspire fear into all possessed of understanding. But those objects of terror which surpass not the strength of human nature, differing from each other in magnitude, as well as do the grounds of confidence, courage will discriminate between real and apparent dangers and make us meet the former, as brave men aught, unshaken and dauntless, subjecting the instinctive emotions of fear to the dictates of reason and of honor. For we betray our weakness, not only when we fear things really not formidable, but when we are affected in an undue degree, or at an improper time, by objects of real danger. A brave man avoids such errors, and, estimating things by their real worth, prefers the grace and beauty of habitual fortitude to the delusive security of deformed cowardice. Yet he is not less careful to avoid that excess of intrepidity, which, being rarely met with, is like many other vices, without a name; though nothing but madness, or a most stupid insensibility, can make any man preservice, amidst earthquakes and inundations, that unshaken composure, which has been ascribed to the Celts. An overweening estimate of the causes of confidence, and a consequent excess of courage, is called audacity; a boastful species of bravery, and the mere ape of true manhood. What the brave man is, the rash and audacious man wishes to appear; he courts and provokes unnecessary dangers, but fails in the hour of trial; and is, for the most part, a blustering bully, who, under a semblance of pretended courage, conceals no inconsiderable portion of cowardice.

But the complete and genuine coward easily betrays himself, by fearing either things not formidable, or things formidable, in an undue degree; and his failings is the more manifest, because it is accompanied with plain indications of pain; he lives in continual alarm, and is therefore spiritless and dejected; whereas courage warms our breasts, and animates our hopes. Such then is the character of true courage, as opposed to audacity on one hand, and cowardice on the other. It holds the middle place between those vicious extremes; it is calm and sedate; and thought it never provokes danger, is always ready to meet even death in and honourable cause. But to die, rather than endure manfully the pressure of poverty, or the stings of love, or any other cruel suffering, is the part of a coward; who basely flies from an enemy that he has not spirit  to encounter; and ignominiously quits the field, where he might have sustained a strenuous and honourable conflict.

I provide those passages as food for thought to you. Men, women, regardless of how you identify, we can all learn something from those two passages. We really are stronger together than apart. We need to know that we’re partners in life, that we have partners.

Be good to each other. Be virtuous, be courageous.


The Amusing Muse is a Renaissance Woman, a Jane-of-all-Trades, a polymath, who knows a lot about a lot and follows her heart into whatever new interest she has. She is a plant nerd and like The Smothers Brothers, talks to the trees. She does wonder, however, if they actually listen.
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Fancy Coffee Friday: Confidence Rollercoaster

06-jan-2017New beginnings. My first post of 2016 was all about goals, things I’d set out to do more of, do better, do less of; not resolutions, but goals. I’ve always felt that Usonians have watered down the meaning of what a resolution is. A goal, though, those are things that you aim for, they are attainable.

Entire fitness empires are built on resolutions. Want to know why the local gym has one hundred treadmills all facing the windows and you only ever see maybe three people on them? Because those gyms need to prepare for the flood of Resolutionists who flood their floors in January, sign up for a one-year contract while they’re still high on confidence, n’er to be seen again come mid-February.

Growing up Catholic and submitting to the required confessions on a regular basis, resolutions are like confessions of the average good Catholic kid: we just make something up so we have something to respond with when asked.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession.”

“What do you have to confess, my child?”

*thoughts swirling about in a mad frenzy to pick something good, something plausible* “Well, I hit my brother twice and I took the name of the Lord in vain once.” *congratulates self on this brilliant strategy*

“I see. Say three Hail Mary’s and two Our Father’s and you will be absolved.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Later, back at the pew, dutiful little Catholic that I was, I’d wait for my Uncle to get back from his run into the booth (yes, really, I went to grade school with my Uncle who was four months older than me) and we’d compare notes. We both knew we made up “sins” – all of the kids did. Nobody wanted to be the kid to kneel in the confessional and say, “Welp… I didn’t do a damn thing wrong in the last two weeks. Why? Because I’m a great kid. Well-behaved. Honestly, Father, this is a bit of a farce, ‘confess your sins’ and all that jazz.”

Confessions and Resolutions are similar. Society makes us feel like we absolutely need to be setting some sort of resolution to better ourselves. If we’re fat, we’re supposed to resolve to work out daily, consume all-things-kale, and revel in self-denial of every tasty morsel we crave. If we swear a lot, we’re supposed to resolve to swear less. If we love chocolate, we’re supposed to resolve to eat less. You get the idea.

Resolutions have been bastardized and became all about denial. Goals? Those are different. Goals are still (mostly) untouched and are pure and good. You tell someone that you have set a goal for yourself to lose five pounds and you get a pat on the back. “Nice job! Great goal! I know you can do it!” You say you set a resolution to lose five pounds, though, and you get that wrinkled-brow look of concern complete with a head-tilt and a heavy sigh, “Ohhh, that can be tough. I’ve tried. My cousin tried. Everyone I know has tried that. Well, good luck.”

Goals, however, are supported. My goals for 2016 were:

  1. Drink less adult beverages
  2. Keep learning Spanish
  3. Exercise more
  4. Read more
  5. Write more
  6. Make more memories with friends and family
  7. Take more photos and print them
  8. Make Alex the cat as comfortable as possible in his old age

So, how’d I do?

I did alright on drinking less adult beverages initially. Then the stress of a work-environment-gone-awry built up to a point where I knew I was trying to numb it with beverages but I was having a difficult time stopping. That’s one of the issues being a stress eater-and-drinker, you’re aware that the stress is there and you need to do something about it that is healthy, but you go for a quick “fix”. That fix, of course, doesn’t work, so not only is the stress still there, but you feel like shit on top of it. Nice thinking, Self.

I did, however, keep up with my Spanish lessons via the Duolingo app, missing very few days in the year, and those missed were only because I was nowhere near a data signal. This year, I’m continuing with the app and I am going to be starting up classroom lessons, earning some CEU’s in the process.

I also exercised more. My former employer was located in a great place where walking was a pleasure. It was typical for the coworker who became my friend and I to get out for a walk on a lunch break. Two miles in 30 minutes? No problem. Of course, even though I exercised more, I was maintaining weight instead of losing due to all those empty calories I was consuming.

I found I was reading less. At least less books for pleasure. I was reading a ton of articles for work and periodicals for personal gain, but the books I wanted to read were building up and I wasn’t getting to them. Books I was already in the middle of, “Ulysses” and “The Complete Works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky”, were still going (and still are), but slowly.

I made efforts to write more. Sometimes I succeeded, others I didn’t. And that was because I made more time for making memories with friends and family. There was our trip to Alaska, camping weekends, annual parties at Chez Muse, funerals for my sister and a beloved Great Uncle. Life had snuck in and switched up my plans.

We also took  more photos, though printing them off hasn’t been done. Some of them turned out quite spectacular and I hope to get them on the wall to be appreciated.

And last, but not least, Alex the cat is still going strong as he approaches 19 years old. He’s deaf, has a death wish to be crushed underfoot, his kidneys are failing but he’s still chugging along. He also tolerates me giving him fluids every three days because afterwards he gets treats. (Nothing says “Welcome to our Home” quite like a bag of lactated ringers hanging from the floor lamp.) This winter we even went so far as to put a heating pad on the back of the couch and it didn’t take him but one day to figure out that he loved this new arrangement. Rupunzel the cat has also recently discovered the heating pad and some days, she can be found either trying to get Alex to move over and make room for her, or just kicking him off entirely so she can have a turn. Ah, kids.

So, all-in-all, I’m rather happy with how my goals progressed for 2016 and I shall work on them again in 2017. There will, however, be an addition. I quit my job at the end of last year so I could work on my goal of writing more and actually earning an income from it.

I’m happy to say that my stress level has fallen dramatically from the time I had made my decision through now. But, like that good little Catholic kid I was, feeling guilty for not having something to confess, I’ve found myself alternating between complete confidence in my making writing work and thinking, “just who do you think you are, Sarah!?

Mr. Muse has assured me that we’re going to be fine as I pursue this goal. After all, we set up our expenses in such a way that we would be fine. But, the guilt. The waxing and waning of confidence. It’ll be a rollercoaster*, and I’ve never been particularly fond of those, but I think I’d better hang on and enjoy the ride.

*Interesting stylistic note, apparently American English is supposed to write this in two words as “roller coaster”. British English is one word, “rollercoaster”. I prefer the latter, even though I’m a Usonian.

The Amusing Muse lives in South-Central Wisconsin with her husband, two elderly cats, a tank of tropical fish including one armored catfish who has hung on for 20+ years, honeybees,  a couple dozen chickens and five goats. She can watch episodes of “The Simpsons” for hours on end and has a penchant for high-end, organic, free-trade peanut butter cups.
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Fancy Coffee Friday: 2016 – It’s Complicated

Dear 2016, It's ComplicatedI’ve thought quite a bit about what I wanted to write about to wrap up 2016, and even as I type away at this keyboard, the only thing I can come up with is that my relationship with 2016 has been complicated. I’m guessing I’m not alone with that sentiment.

We’ve seen the news stories of beloved icons who have passed away this year. The world appears to be burning, if you watch the news. And news outlets themselves are under fire for putting out every story that will garner high ratings even if it’s devoid of substance (not to mention facts). Speaking of substance, the world watched as the USA elected a “celebrity” to the office of President, the reasons given by many based upon things said during the campaign that were truly less-than-substantive. There is division across the board and across far too many areas to list.

Society appears to be eschewing intellect at an alarming rate. The STEM fields are begging for more people to enter them and for those who don’t to at least attempt some critical thinking. Labor jobs are begging for people, but so much of American society says we should all aim higher. The world, it seems, is often a representation of what goes on in our immediate sphere.

While the world lost icons, I lost my sister, a beloved great uncle who was more a grandfather to me than my own grandfather, who also passed away. I saw a lot of relationships between people fall apart because there was a lack of critical thinking and understanding. The beliefs that some held close were questioned by others, and vice versa.

These familial losses caused me to think about my relationships with the people in my life, and the relationships between all of those people with each other. I’ve had some good exchanges with my eldest nephew on the complications of living one’s own life and how I know things his mother did (or didn’t do) had an effect upon him. They affected everyone, really.

The job that I’m leaving today has given me a great deal of knowledge about how the mind works, particularly when it comes to family and society. Plus, a lot of inside knowledge into why people behave the way they do. And how our interactions and experiences all impact us in some way, for better or for worse.

I see that far more clearly now than I did when I started here nearly 4 years ago. Who we become as we get older is set on a track very early in our lives. We develop tendencies, mannerisms, habits, good and bad. I have opted to give my foibles a nod. I acknowledge their existence but also know that they are not set in stone if I choose to work on changing them.

But, I also know that I can only do what I can do. Sometimes, it takes work on the part of others, and they may not be willing to do it. I accept that, too. Part of that acceptance also means that down the road, things will get messy as the “it’s complicated” makes it’s way to the surface once again.

However, rather than focus on all of those complications and leaving this final post of 2016 as a somber reflection of events, let me instead focus on some positives.

  • There are good people in the world – in fact, I believe most people are good.
  • Kindness never goes out of style.
  • Daring is a gift: continue to be daring and step outside of your comfort zone if you already are. If you aren’t, try it – more often than not, you’ll learn from, and be better for, it.
  • Intelligence and capability are not gender-specific: encouraging girls to do “boy” things, and boys to do “girl” things builds smart, capable people.
  • Minds are like parachutes, they don’t work if they don’t open.
  • Own your “weird”.

I wish you all the happiest of new years. I also want to thank everyone who reads this blog for hanging in there and sticking with it (and me), through good writing and bad. I appreciate it.

2017, here we come!

PS – If you haven’t watched the movie, “It’s Complicated“, I recommend it.

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Christmas Confessions

christmasThe other day Mr. Muse and I were chatting about what might make a good blog post leading up to the Christmas holiday. I’d been watching Food Network while on the treadmill and there was a show called “The Twelve Foods of Christmas” with the Holderness Family hosting. As they were rolling on through the various food items, I kept thinking “I’ve never had that”. So, without much further ado…a post about Christmas foods I’ve had… or had not.

Traditional Christmas Foods I have not eaten… Yet.

  1. Eggnog. Haven’t had it. Haven’t had it in any form. Really. Is it good? I know that it typically has booze in it, but… it’s it good? Would I like it?
  2. Yule Log. Nope. No cake in the shape of a log for me. Mostly because nobody has made it.
  3. Christmas Pudding. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d heard of it until I really got into reading old cookbooks, but even then, I didn’t have the mind to make it.
  4. Tom & Jerry. I’ve seen the mix on countertops, but I’ve never had one. As a kid, I always associated this with the cartoon, but somehow knew that’s not actually what the tub on the counter was about.
  5. Oyster Stew. So, once upon a time my sister and I bought a can of Campbell’s Oyster Stew in a fit of feeling adventurous. We heated up the soup with the requisite milk and… Damn. That smelled pretty terrible. Admittedly, we each tried a spoonful but couldn’t make it through the whole spoon. The contents went to the barn cats, who, if I recall correctly, eschewed the pan until it froze and we had to dump it out. Lesson: if the barn cats won’t eat it, you won’t want to either.

Traditional Christmas Foods I have eaten.

  1. Other typical, American Christmas dishes. All of them, even fruitcake. No need to list the rest here.
  2. Lussekatt (aka lussebullar), Swedish Saffron buns. Not my favorite, mostly because of #3. Also, gluten.
  3. Semla. When I could eat gluten… OH MY LORD! Sadly, this one is off the menu for me until or unless I find a good gluten-free version.
  4. Glögg. Which is fabulous and best served with slivered almonds and raisins.
  5. Other typical, Swedish Christmas dishes. Because Mr. Muse and I have a lot of Swedish friends, and when in Rome. Or Stockholm… You eat the herring. Or, the semla.

What is a traditional dish that your family insists is a “must have” for Christmas or any other cultural celebration this time of year?

And and Mom Muse would say: “Be good. Be safe. And if you can’t do that… at least be careful.”

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Thinking Warm Thoughts

Yesterday, I spent about four hours working on a post for the fine people over at Clothes Free Life. That was after spending a couple hours working on a rough draft for the same piece, written out longhand the other day. One thing I’ve learned over the year, particularly those since I’d started this blog, is that writing, at least writing that isn’t awful to read, takes time.

The piece I was working on (and still am – I feel it needs a bit more polish) took some mental power in spite of it being an opinion piece. I’ve found that a lot of what I want to say, with how my mind works, tends to come out in a giant blob of words. For you, the reader, to make sense of it takes work on my part so it doesn’t come out sounding like incoherent babbling. Perhaps someone, whose mind works like mine, would be able to untangle the blob, but it’s just easier for all involved, and good practice for me, if I do it myself.

So, all that time working on a post for CFL left me a bit mentally fried at the end of the day yesterday. I didn’t have the reserve brainpower to come up with something for my own blog until now.

We’ve had one snow storm already this season, frigid temperatures that we wouldn’t normally see until February, and the snow is falling once again. A preview of the storm that is to begin in earnest this evening – though honestly it looks like it’s starting now. Guilty of procrastinating, I started to flip through photos from the last few years, and I came across my photos from December 2014, when Mr Muse and I had been invited to join a tremendous group of people heading to Nosara, Costa Rica. We’d be joining the fine folks of N Magazine who were researching an article for clothes-free travel in the area.

Well, as I flipped through the images, I enjoyed all the memories that came back, including the feel of that closer-to-the-equator sun on me as I lounged in and around the pool at Casa Banda. If you’d like to read about the adventures in Costa Rica, you can do so here, here, here, and here!

Until then, enjoy this photo of fishing boats bobbing in the water at San Juanillo, Costa Rica.

Fishing boats in the water at San Juanillo, CR.

Fishing boats in the water at San Juanillo, CR.

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Not Broken

There are times in life where we find ourselves under a tremendously heavy load of stress. Stress is a horrible, nasty monster and it shows itself in a variety of ways that are different for every person walking under their heavy load.

Me? I am a stress eater and drinker. Give me all of the chocolate and booze and nobody gets hurt. Well, nobody except me. I had an emergency stash of chocolate that was to be envied. It didn’t contain cheap Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It was filled with Green & Black, Chocolove, Theo’s, Justin’s… high end chocolate that I doled out to myself daily in my work-safe self-medicating.

At home, well, if I was going to have one cocktail… why not two? Well shoot, there is just a little bit in the bottle – I should just finish it off. Right?

And the thing is – that’s not who I really am. That’s my evil alter-ego getting squeezed out when the stress is reaching dangerous levels. So, Mr Muse and I decided to dump a lot of bottles. I also resigned from my job. The work itself wasn’t stressful – but the environment was and I wasn’t happy. I had to leave.

The amazing thing was that within two days of resigning, I dropped about five pounds (at least visually), I saw my stomach flatten again, my cravings for chocolate and alcohol went away, and I had started dreaming again. Sweet relief from dropping that heavy load was quick to come.

Now, I’m working out the last kinks. Aches and pains are working their way to the surface, so my chiropractor and massage therapist have a bit of work to do.

Meanwhile, there are a few more things I’ve done to mitigate the damage to my stressed-out soul.

  1. Subscribed to Headspace; it really is great.
  2. Yogi Bedtime teas when I get home.
  3. Journaling – though I’ve been doing that for the whole year, it does help.

I feel more like myself again, and that’s a good thing. I’m not broken, I just bent a little.

Do you have behaviors that surface when you’re under stress? 
What do you do to relieve stress?

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